Ia! Ia! Snicker-Snack: Tips on Playing Lovecraftian Swords & Sorcery

Last night the power went out and I was sitting in the dark. Why do you care? Either because you’re concerned with my well-being or, far more likely, you’ll find a degree of interest in the chain of events which prompted today’s topic. I had been reading a number of novels on my NOOKcolor, but have not read any long matter for a bit, nor could I browse the online store. (I’m sitting in the dark, remember?) I go through my library and decide I’ll reread the HPL stories I downloaded in alphabetical order and, I’ll confess, there were some I remember right off the bat like good old, scary friends [1. Take Cool Air for example.] and others I had never read but was conversant with, such as the Dream Cycle works. I never wanted my fantasy and Mythos to fuse in my youth, though I was intrigued by two factors. The first was reading Celephaïs which seemed like a cross between an opium induced drug dream and Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. It was satisfying. I was reading another side of Lovecraft and I appreciated it far more than when I made several false starts on what I deemed required, but grinding reading of his materials to get the writer in toto.

This was coupled with a question I had noted yesterday, but didn’t get to answer last evening due to a confluence of events culminating with the storm and yours truly sitting in the dark reading HPL. Things happen for a reason [2. Not always a good one], so I talked the question better prepared by the electrical-powered light of day.

The question posited was essentially “Can you take a weird fantasy setting, such as Tekumul and make it work with Realms of Cthulhu?”

The short answer is “Absolutely!”

Read on for the longer answer:

You could do it straight out of the core book or include some elements from the Fantasy Companion.

If you desire an alternative way to incorporate sorcerers as PCs, I’d suggest taking a look at Solomon Kane, or you can leave it as it stands. My big caveat is, even though you’re playing “Heroic Horror” to keep it low magic and gritty. Let the players fret as their characters get banged up and scraped. Let the characters tremble as they approach the small, coastal village and hear ancient ululations made to ancient things…

While you could certainly use other names for the Mythos creatures, I think you might be missing some golden opportunities to strike real dread in your players (especially if they are familiar with the Mythos) by evoking some of the horrible pantheon in play or have the allusions so heavy-handed as to let them think they’re horribly clever for discovering “The Black Prince” is Nyarlathotep.

I’d also advise reading some of the Dreamlands stories to get a feel for the type of fantastic elements Lovecraft could deliver. Check out his lavish, gilded language as he describes such things in Celephaïs, The Doom that Came to Sarnath, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath . Keep in mind, they are not so much stories as experiences which should set you on the proper path.

Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!



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1 Note on “Ia! Ia! Snicker-Snack: Tips on Playing Lovecraftian Swords & Sorcery”

  1. Ehi, “common” magic works to slaughter a “common” dragon, but do nothing to the mysterious Dagonian monster came from the deep swamp… ;P
    You can easily assign Immunities to creatures from the Mythos that require some special magic / ritual, not the standard 3d6 Damage fireball.

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